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Henna Caravan finds Magento reprieve with BigCommerce, hits 2X conversion rate in 3 weeks




2X 33% 3
industry conversion rate revenue driven by SEO uplift failed Magento site launches
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Henna Caravan success story

Henna Caravan was founded in 1997 by Jessica McQueen. She discovered Henna in college and immediately fell in love with it. But there was one problem: it was nearly impossible to get good Henna product or even just basic information about the tradition.

Everything was like your grandma's secret spaghetti recipe –– a closely guarded family secret.

But soon, McQueen figured out how to make her own recipe, then taught herself how to code and built a website from the ground up using basic HTML and PayPal Cart in 2001. Seven years later, the business was booming and McQueen needed to upgrade the site to reflect Henna Caravan’s maturity in market.

That’s when she found Magento –– what she was told was the best option out there. But 3 years, tens of thousands of dollars and no new site to show for it, Henna Caravan launched their new BigCommerce site in 3 months, under budget and, 3 weeks after launch, are already pulling in thousands in new revenue.


Moving from HTML to SaaS

As told to BigCommerce by Jessica McQueen, Founder of Henna Caravan.

We still had our original site up until about 3 weeks ago. We were still using that original framework that I made in 2001. It was so limiting for us. There were no coupon codes or customer databases. It was difficult to search orders. Everything had to be done through email, and if our email went down, we couldn't process a single order.

Those issues were just some of the few Magento was supposed to fix for us, but that project became a beast of its own.


There was never any functionality on Magento. There was never a completed site delivered. Jessica McQueen, Founder of Henna Caravan

Everything from start to finish was hard with Magento

As told to BigCommerce by Jessica McQueen, Founder of Henna Caravan.

Everything from start to finish was hard with Magento. I chose a developer that I thought meshed with me really well. She and I got along wonderfully and they got the site to about 60% built, and then she vanished. Turns out they stopped doing Magento development completely and another company bought up our contract –– and no one ever told us.

That actually happened twice –- where I paid for a full build and never had anything that could replace our PayPal site.

Three times I was rolled over into new developers without ever having spoken to them –– and everybody had a different idea on what to do. A lot of the design work was being outsourced with terrible communication issues; I would have a finished section setup with a yellow color scheme, and in the next edit it would come back turquoise.

We'd ask for that to be corrected and then the entire site would be brown.

There were always language conflicts you just couldn’t predict. Then, after all this back and forth, we would be told we had used our two rounds of editing and there would be additional charges. “No,” I’d tell them, “You've made so many mistakes we haven't even gotten to the editing!”

There was never any functionality on Magento. There was never a completed site delivered.


MagentoGo didn’t have the features, Enterprise costs too much

As told to BigCommerce by Jessica McQueen, Founder of Henna Caravan.

Of course, this went on for a number of years. We were still in the middle of trying to launch our Magento site when Magento itself revamped their business model, got rid of their community open source platform, moved to MagentoGo and enterprise only.

MagentoGo didn't have the features that we needed, that we had signed on for and enterprise was completely out of our budget as a very small business.


Our Magento site never worked for us

As told to BigCommerce by Jessica McQueen, Founder of Henna Caravan.

It was awful. I built the business out of passion and learned every step of the way what I needed to do. Then, when I finally committed to paying for a professionally built website, I ended up working on it for years with companies that just couldn't deliver and were absolutely terrible.

My sister, Carissa, and the tech guy were able to get Magento live, but I still could barely use the back end because it was so boggy and non-intuitive.

We got it up, but it really never functioned.

At that point, I had to walk. Magento was so difficult to work with and nothing operated smoothly. There was bug on top of bug, and glitch on top of glitch. And then, we were told that just to do a version update was going to run up to $10,000, give or take. That was the point we could no longer keep doing that. We took a break and started looking for ecommerce platforms again.


BigCommerce was the only mid-market solution to offer complex customization out-of-the-box

As told to BigCommerce by Carissa McQueen, CMO of Henna Caravan.

I spent days looking at every shopping cart option available and I reached out to different developers and digital agencies to see who they recommended. From that, I created myself a short list of the most popular ones.

That’s when I began looking at our non-negotiables. We wanted a highly customized site. We have a unique business that is much more than a store. Education is a huge part of it. We offer content and tutorials as well as both B2B and B2C ordering and booking for artist booking for local and destination events.

We needed a platform that would be able to host both an ecommerce site, as well as a robust content site that would allow us to educate the market.

What we ended finding in all that research is that a lot of these mid-market shopping cart options really only offered the basics –– especially when it came to product variants and bundling. They would only offer basic sizing, for instance, in small, medium or large.

Our product variant and bundling needs are very different – and much more complex.

If you dig in, you'll see you can get a Henna kit that comes in either paste or powder, and that comes in a couple different flavor options, and each of those options has a different price point, but essentially the product is the same.

We needed our customers to be able to choose their basic product, and then be served add-ons at the product level that would tailor their item for them.

BigCommerce was the only ecommerce platform for a business of our size that allowed for product variant customization in a complex way, and that contained both an ecommerce solution as well as content pages that could serve as a CMS.




BigCommerce was the only ecommerce platform for a business of our size that allowed for product variant customization in a complex way, and that contained both an ecommerce solution as well as content pages that could serve as a CMS. Carissa McQueen, CMO of Henna Caravan
Magento was so difficult to work with and nothing operated smoothly. There was bug on top of bug, and glitch on top of glitch. And then, we were told that just to do a version update was going to run up to $10,000, give or take. That was the point we could no longer keep doing that. Jessica McQueen, Founder of Henna Caravan
Henna Caravan Quote Hero

Henna Caravan finds Magento reprieve with BigCommerce, hits 2X conversion rate in 3 weeks


2X 33% 3
industry conversion rate revenue driven by SEO uplift failed Magento site launches


Enterprise design & development at small business prices

As told to BigCommerce by Jessica McQueen, Founder of Henna Caravan.

We used two different agencies for our design and development. First, Magnetic Creative designed the site for us and got us to a color palette and look and feel on BigCommerce that I loved. Everything for the new brand look was handled by them and we really just needed a partner to implement it.

That’s when we went had another round of interviewing, looking for a developer and found Vander. They were great!

In fact, the BigCommerce team was essential in this partnership. I was getting quotes during that second round of interviewing for as low as $5,000 –– which I knew wasn’t right for all the customization we wanted –– and then upward of $250,000 –– which I knew was way too expensive.

So, I emailed my rep over at BigCommerce and he helped me find the perfect agency. Vander was just a great fit for us. We're a micro-business, but we have big needs. We're growing and have been growing strongly for a number of years. Finding someone who can offer enterprise solutions for a small business that doesn't have the enterprise resources or budget –– that’s a game changer for us.


Launching into a 4% conversion rate during the busiest season of the year

As told to BigCommerce by Jessica McQueen, Founder of Henna Caravan.

I also just want to say, we launched 3 weeks ago and this month is our busiest month of the year. We are a very seasonal business, and we had all this stress about launching during our busy time and that the launch was going to throw our whole system into disarray.

And it’s done the exact opposite. It's been really, really smooth.

Plus, things have immediately become more streamlined and we’re saving money in ways we didn’t expect. Our warehouse ladies, for instance, learned how to use BigCommerce in a day.

We were also able to immediately see that we were losing money on shipping fees for a lot of orders. We were able to go into BigCommerce and address that on the exact same day we found it. Now, shipping is right where we need it to be.


Ecommerce Analytics and abandoned cart saver to drive more sales, more often

As told to BigCommerce by Jessica McQueen, Founder of Henna Caravan.

Now that we’re live on BigCommerce, it’s so fun to look at our Ecommerce Analytics and see how people are interacting with our products.

And that abandoned cart feature is awesome!

That’s turned into the most exciting part of my day, seeing an abandoned cart get converted into a sale. That’s the kind of tool I didn’t have access to 2 months ago. I had no idea that people were leaving their cart empty and how much was sitting on the table at the end of the day.

I've noticed, too, that a lot of those abandoned carts are new customers. We have a lot of regular customers who are also professional artists and they'll abandon a cart, but come back and shop later just because they are busy. But seeing those carts get picked back up by people who have never ordered with us –– well, that’s a really big deal!


Out-of-the-box coupons for customer loyalty and rewards

As told to BigCommerce by Jessica McQueen, Founder of Henna Caravan.

We're still getting used to all the new features we have on BigCommerce. For instance, I want to set up birthday coupon codes soon!

We have everyone's birthday month on file, so now, we'll filter those customers out and then send them a coupon code for their birthday.

That's something I wanted to do for years and just didn't have any ability to with everything else that was going wrong with the site development. I'm really excited to be able to do that this coming year!


BigCommerce + PayPal deliver one-click simplicity

As told to BigCommerce by Jessica McQueen, Founder of Henna Caravan.

I really love the integration with PayPal by Braintree. Our old payment processor was really tricky to use. Doing refunds, for instance, was nearly impossible on it.

Being able to integrate this one step solution on the back end in BigCommerce is so nice. We can access customer records, see questions, adjust orders or addresses, and easily access transaction information all in one place. If I need to do a refund, I can click on the link or copy that transaction number and see it immediately in the integrated merchant gateway. It’s all right there.

That is really great. I was able to train my mom, who runs our warehouse on it in about 5 minutes. On our previous payment processor, I had 3 pages of notes for her and every time we had to access the processor, we had to update our instruction sheets as well. Not anymore!

It really was this one click, "Oh you have BrainTree, and this is how it works. Just click OK!” We did, and suddenly we’re taking payments with a 2.2% transaction fee just already there –– no negotiating or difficulty for us at all.


Final word

As told to BigCommerce by Jessica McQueen, Founder of Henna Caravan.

When it comes down to it, we're artists. Doing anything on business side is always really intimidating. There's a lot of jargon and a lot of knowledge that people in business just assume is common knowledge. Coming from an artist side, it definitely isn't.

If you’re a creative, it can be really intimidating starting an online business and venturing into that world, but finding the right partners will make that process go really quickly. Don't be afraid to jump in and really commit to your creativity as a business, as the way you can support your family. This is how you can be part of the larger financial and social economy. You don’t have to choose between art and making a living.


Being able to integrate this one step solution on the back end in BigCommerce is so nice. We can access customer records, see questions, adjust orders or addresses, and easily access transaction information all in one place. Jessica McQueen, Founder of Henna Caravan

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